Yet again, Governor Brian Sandoval (R-"Post-partisan") is being hailed for his "third way". After he agreed to accept the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion, other Republican Governors started following suit. Never mind that he wants to undermine the very purpose of Medicaid expansion. He's just so "moderate". At least he's providing good optics for Republicans.
And then, there's Dean Heller. After running hard to the "tea party" radical right when in the House, he's suddenly found his "No Labels Post-partisan" side as Nevada's Junior US Senator. Notice his support for Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, his change of tune on gun safety reform, and his total about face on comprehensive immigration reform. Apparently, his near loss to Shelley Berkley last November convinced Heller to pursue a complete course correction in Washington.
What we're seeing here in Nevada illustrates the deep challenge for the national Republican Party. After several cycles of pursuing "perfect conservatism", Republicans are now left with "tea party" madness that threatens its overall electoral viability. That's why Karl Rove is forming a SuperPAC designed to defeat "tea party" backed Congressional candidates who the Republican establishment considers electoral liabilities.
However, the "tea party" isn't ending any time soon. For one, even the Republican establishment has not completely abandoned "tea party" ideology and practices. And even in the instances where it has, teabaggers are vowing to fight back. Whether the establishment wants to call it "moderation", "modernization", or something else entirely, its preferred path of change isn't being accepted by the very base it's relied on for the past several election cycles.
Case in point: Sharron Angle. No matter how much Nevada's Republican establishment wants her to disappear, she keeps reemerging like a "TEA" fueled jack-in-the-box. And no matter how much Heller & Sandoval try to convince their party to embrace their "third way", the base continues to choose Sharrontology instead.
This is the problem that plagues Republicans. Their "ticking demographic time bomb" is now exploding. The American electorate is changing. And the traditional Republican base is shrinking. As long as "top of the ticket" federal Republican candidates fail to approach 50% here in Nevada and in other swing states, Republicans are in deep trouble.
Yet in recent cycles, Republicans have depended on what we now call the "tea party" for its success. George W. Bush was reelected in 2004 thanks to record Christian fundamentalist turnout. And many Republicans were swept into Congress in 2010 thanks to a unique combination of depressed Democratic turnout and intense "tea party" activity.
However even then, there were warning signs. And the biggest one was right here in Nevada, when Sharron Angle lost that epic Senate race to Harry Reid. Republicans were expecting all year to unseat the Majority Leader. But when she lost despite the national pro-Republican environment of the 2010 cycle and the millions spent by "Tea Party, Inc." to drag down Harry Reid's poll numbers, it sent reverberations across the country...
Yet the teabaggers refused to notice. They kept nominating more extreme Congressional candidates. And they forced Mitt Romney so far to the radical right that he became unacceptable for too many voters. And they lost both the Presidency (again) & a number of key Congressional races across the country last November.
Yet despite all this, the G-O-TEA base demands even more ideological "purity". That's why it keeps trying to kill comprehensive immigration reform, gun safety reform, and the Violence Against Women Act. And because so many Republican Members of Congress continue to fear "tea party" powered primary challenges (like Sue Lowden's loss to Sharron Angle in 2010), they continue to fall in line.
Case in point: Mark Amodei. He claims to be "tired of the drama" of governance by way of synthetic crises. So what does he propose? Oh, just more synthetic crises! After all, teabaggers seem to love the idea of crashing & burning the economy for the sake of their ideology.
But now, most Americans are tired of these "tea party" antics. And it looks like some in the Republican establishment are finally realizing at least the optical problem of this. Yet because it's promised this and more to the "tea party" base, the base expects more obstruction and more ideology driven inflexibility. And so far, teabaggers still don't care about the larger political repercussions.
So the spirit of Sharron Angle lives on in the Republican Party. And not only that, it also continues to guide the core of the party. After pandering so much to it in order to save their hides in Republican primaries past, can Dean Heller & Brian Sandoval actually move past it for good? And after cultivating it for so long, can Karl Rove actually succeed in silencing it? How these questions are answered will determine the fate of various policies being debated in Carson City and Washington now... As well as the future of the entire Republican Party.